The scandal surrounding the Rolling Stone article ‘A Rape on Campus’ has revealed an interesting new phase in journalism. Reporting accurately with fact checking and story substantiation has given way to a twitter-like approach wherein what we feel like saying takes precedence. This is a dangerous development for any of us concerned with the search for truth.
The search for meaning has supplanted the search for truth. So the reporter seeking to find the truth for all of us takes a back seat to the tweeter offering meaning. But in the TwitterSphere, it is only a personal meaning where facts no longer matter, only ideas and feelings about what has occurred. This is fine when people are chatting among themselves about themselves and their limited space. But it is dangerous when applied to the world around us. We all routinely see twitter buzzing with reports of things, a good first indicator of something happening, but what that might be remains only the stuff of speculation. The developing corroborated facts can dramatically shift the story into something almost unrecognizable from the initial reporting/speculating.
We need to decide what we want, and we need to know what we are getting. If reporting truthfully and accurately is important then, tweeting is inappropriate. If the impact of events and immediacy of reaction is important, then long live the “tweet.” Both have their place. Reporters have coexisted with journalists for a long time. History is often told with a lens that does not focus on the recitation of facts, even when the facts are discernible, but rather a perspective drawn from certain facts. We need to be clear when we are engaging in which.
The sins of the Rolling Stone include offering up a story that purported to be factual when in fact it was anything but. Another sin is that those responsible for this breach of trust are not being held fully accountable. And very sadly, besides the damage done to the public trust is the damage done to the original victim. Whatever happened to her is now deeply submerged. There is the damage done to the young people of the fraternity. We do not know what transpired in this place and who are the responsible parties. That is the story that has been lost in all this. #TheRollingStone has betrayed us all.